WASHINGTON (AP) — Venturing back into the nation's culture wars, the Republican-controlled House is taking up legislation that GOP lawmakers say would protect gas stoves from overzealous government regulators.
A bill approved Tuesday would prohibit use of federal funds to regulate gas stoves as a hazardous product, while a separate bill set for a vote Wednesday would block an Energy Department rule setting stricter energy efficiency standards for stovetops and ovens.
Both bills were set for approval last week, but action was postponed after House conservatives staged a mini-revolt in retaliation for Speaker Kevin McCarthy's leadership on a measure to raise the debt ceiling. Led by outspoken members of the House Freedom Caucus, 11 Republicans broke with their party on an otherwise routine procedural vote that threw the House schedule into disarray for a full week.
McCarthy appeared to resolve the dispute late Monday after promising more meetings with GOP holdouts and seeking to reduce future federal spending.
With the impasse resolved, GOP lawmakers resumed their focus on gas stoves and bureaucratic rules that Republicans call classic government overreach.
"It's not a petty concern to the hard-working Americans who will be impacted," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. "The last thing they need is to have the Biden administration's Green New Deal regulatory assault reach their kitchen appliances."
The bill targeting regulation of gas stoves as hazardous was approved, 248-180.
The White House said President Joe Biden opposes both GOP bills as blocking "common-sense efforts to help Americans cut their energy bill." Neither bill is expected to advance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Dozens of Democratic-controlled cities, including San Francisco and Berkeley, California, have moved to ban new buildings from using gas stoves as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve indoor air quality . New York state approved a law last month banning natural gas stoves and furnaces in most new buildings.
Fears of a national ban grew after a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission said in January that "any option is on the table" when it comes to regulating gas stoves, which have been linked to poor indoor air quality and health harms such as asthma. The remark prompted online images of the government dragging four-burner cooktops from homes, as social media users and GOP lawmakers vowed to defend the popular appliances.
Debate reignited after the Energy Department proposed a rule requiring both gas and electric stoves and cooktops to use more efficient designs and technologies.
The Energy Department rule, which has not yet been finalized, could ban about half of gas stove models currently sold in the United States as of 2027, according to an Energy Department analysis. The rule would apply only to sale of new appliances and would not affect stoves already in homes or businesses.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington state, called the DOE plan "just the latest in a long line of power grabs by the radical left and Biden administration.''
The rule is "not about public safety. It is about telling the American people the federal government knows best and will decide what kind of car they can drive, how they can heat their house and now how they're allowed to cook food for their families,'' McMorris Rodgers said.
Forcing Americans to switch to more expensive alternatives to natural gas will increase costs while disproportionately harming the poor and low-income families, she said.
Democrats called those concerns overheated.
"This is nothing more than a conspiracy theory cooked up to embroil Congress in culture wars that shed more heat than light on the issues facing our nation,'' said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pennsylvania.
"Contrary to the heated rhetoric from our colleagues across the aisle, the federal government has not proposed to remove appliances from Americans' homes,'' Scanlon said. The proposed Energy Department rule would save consumers up to $1.7 billion and cut down on emission that are dangerous to children's health, she added.
The bill blocking regulation of unsafe gas stoves threatens the government's ability to identify and regulate appliances with design defects that could cause injury or death, Scanlon said, noting that that the consumer safety panel recently recalled gas stove models that placed consumers at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
An Energy Department spokeswoman said the proposed rule is "intended for nothing more than increasing energy efficiency and promoting innovation, without sacrificing the reliability and performance that Americans have come to expect.''
The White House said the administration "has been clear that it does not support any attempt to ban the use of gas stoves.''
Eliminating the energy efficiency rule would "deny the American people the savings that come with having more efficient new appliances on the market when they choose to replace an existing appliance,'' the White House said in a statement, while approval of the other bill "would undermine science-based Consumer Product Safety Commission decision-making.''